As more states and municipalities make masks mandatory in public settings, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Better Business Bureau have issued a warning about flyers or cards stating that the owner is exempt from wearing face masks. These cards are not issued or approved by any state or federal governmental agency.

The “mask exemption” cards are circulated online and on social media by a group called the Freedom to Breathe Agency, claiming that the bearer is lawfully exempt from wearing a face mask and that the cards are endorsed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to several governmental agencies, this is simply not true.

Health experts and the DOJ are urging the public to be reminded that wearing a mask will not pose a mental or physical risk, which the cards claim. The cards also state that asking the owner about their medical condition preventing them from wearing a mask is forbidden by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It also claims that asking those questions is punishable by fines of $75,000 or more.

An official statement released by the DOJ, the department overseeing compliance with ADA guidelines, indicates that the agency has not endorsed, approved or distributed the cards. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Gov. Holcomb, has recommended wearing a face mask when going out in public as a method to slow the spread of COVID-19. Masks are precautionary, along with hand washing and social distancing. Visit the CDC’s website, www.cdc.gov, for more tips to protect yourself and others.

Always be suspicious of claims circulating on social media. Especially be suspicious if someone is offering one of these cards for sale, since they are not endorsed or approved by any agency. If you have questions about your health risks or ways to keep yourself safe, consult your personal health professional.

If you spot someone making claims on behalf of a government agency like the DOJ, always verify those claims by visiting the agency’s official website and using the contact methods there. Remember, all government agencies’ website should include “.gov” in the URL. For more information about the ADA, visit www.ada.gov.

For more information about COVID-19 scams and consumer risks, please visit www.bbb.org/coronavirus. Business owners can find resources as they plan their reopening at www.bbb.org/smallbusiness. For the most up-to-date information regarding Indiana regulations and conditions, visit www.backontrack.in.gov.

If you’ve spotted a mask exemption card scam, or any other type of scam online or in person, report it to the BBB at www.bbb.org/scamtracker and to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports will help other consumers avoid being scammed.

Marjorie Stephens is the CEO/president of BBB Serving Northern Indiana. BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior.

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